Since fuel cell solutions can offer business benefits and are ‘zero-emission', they will have an added appeal to consumers and businesses seeking ways to help the environment. As these audiences purchase increased volumes of fuel cell-powered solutions, the potential for a ‘green' future will become more tangible.

Dr. Christopher Guzy of Ballard Power

Dr. Christopher Guzy | Ballard Power Systems

EarthToys Renewable Energy Article
Since fuel cell solutions can offer business benefits and are ‘zero-emission’, they will have an added appeal to consumers and businesses seeking ways to help the environment. As these audiences purchase increased volumes of fuel cell-powered solutions, the potential for a ‘green’ future will become more tangible.  
EarthToys Interview – Fuel Cells Now and in the Future

Dr. Christopher Guzy, Ballard Power Systems

Christopher Guzy joined Ballard as Vice President and Chief Technology Officer in February 2005.  In January 2008, Dr. Guzy took on the additional role of Vice President of Operations.  Dr. Guzy’s areas of responsibility include worldwide operations, technology research and development and product development.

Immediately prior to joining Ballard, Dr. Guzy was General Manager of GE Healthcare’s product development and supply chain operations in Hungary from 2001 to 2005.  He also held a number of other senior technology and product development leadership positions in GE’s plastics, lighting, and appliance business units during his 17 years at General Electric in the United States and Europe.  From 1999 to 2001, Dr. Guzy served as Global General Manager of Linear Fluorescent Technology and Vice President and Director of Quality and Technology, Europe for GE Lighting.  Prior to joining GE, he led a process development section at Nestlé in Switzerland.

Dr. Guzy began his career as Station Director of the School of Chemical Engineering Practice and Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1983 to 1986.  He holds Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Chemical Engineering from Clarkson University and a Doctorate degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of New Mexico

Who is Ballard Power Systems?

Ballard Power Systems Inc. was founded in 1979 under the name Ballard Research Inc., primarily to conduct research and development in high-energy lithium batteries.

In 1983, Ballard began developing proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells, powered by hydrogen.  Proof-of-concept fuel cells followed shortly thereafter and from 1992 to 1994, sub-scale and full-scale prototype systems were developed to demonstrate the technology. These systems evolved into pre-commercial prototypes and initial commercial products. 

Did Ballard invent the fuel cell?

Sir William Grove, a Welsh physicist and patent attorney, first developed the fuel cell in 1839. Then, in the 1960s, NASA used fuel cells to generate electricity for space missions. In 1983, Ballard began development of a Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell, and today is recognized as a world leader in developing, manufacturing and marketing zero-emission PEM fuel cells. 

What expertise does Ballard bring to the production of fuel cells?

Ballard Power Systems is a recognized global leader in the design, manufacture, sale and service of hydrogen fuel cells. Our fuel cell products transform two of the world’s most abundant elements – hydrogen and oxygen – into electricity … efficiently, effectively and with zero emissions. This promise of clean and plentiful electricity is stimulating application development in such markets as materials handling, backup power and residential cogeneration.

What is a fuel cell and how does it work?

The core of the Ballard fuel cell consists of a Membrane Electrode Assembly (MEA), which is placed between two flow-field plates. The MEA consists of two electrodes, the anode and the cathode, which are each coated on one side with a thin catalyst layer and separated by a proton exchange membrane (PEM). The flow-field plates direct hydrogen to the anode and oxygen (from air) to the cathode.

When hydrogen reaches the catalyst layer, it separates into protons (hydrogen ions) and electrons. The free electrons, produced at the anode, are conducted in the form of a usable electric current through the external circuit. At the cathode, oxygen from the air, electrons from the external circuit and protons combine to form water and heat.

To obtain the desired amount of electrical power, individual fuel cells are combined to form a fuel cell stack. Increasing the number of cells in a stack increases the voltage, while increasing the surface area of the cells increases the current. 

What are some of the most practical applications for fuel cells today?

Fuel cell products are available today for end-user products such as forklifts, backup power systems, and residential co-generation systems. These products offer financial and environmental benefits.

How can fuel cell technology be used to influence energy demand/consumption?

Since fuel cell solutions can offer business benefits and are ‘zero-emission’, they will have an added appeal to consumers and businesses seeking ways to help the environment. As these audiences purchase increased volumes of fuel cell-powered solutions, the potential for a ‘green’ future will become more tangible.   

What are the benefits of fuel cell technology?

Fuel cells offer a number of benefits over traditional energy technologies including superior energy efficiency, zero to near-zero emissions, versatile together with scalable applications, low maintenance costs, design freedoms and quiet operation.

Are fuel cell applications competitive in cost and technology with traditional energy solutions?

Costs of fuel cells will inevitably be reduced due to the inherently low cost of the raw materials: graphite, commodity metals, plastics, and composite. The only material component with inherently high cost is the current catalyst, principally because of the price of platinum. There are major platinum recycling systems already in place around the world to recover and reuse the material because it is a major component of the catalysts used in automotive catalytic converters for both gasoline and diesel vehicles. Research is underway to reduce the amount of platinum required, as well as to find alternative catalysts from alloys with base metals. We have reduced the amount of platinum required in our fuel cells by more than a factor of 30 over the past decade. 

Fuel cells are becoming increasingly competitive against incumbent technologies (such as lead-acid batteries, for instance). We are now at the point where fuel cell-powered solutions can compete effectively, from a life cycle cost perspective, in several applications – such as materials handling and backup power. 

What government initiatives encourage the production of alternative energy like fuel cells?

In October 2003, the Government of Canada priorities announced its support of $215 million in federal funding, to extend the country's leadership in the emerging hydrogen economy. That initiative centers on early adoption of hydrogen technologies through integrated demonstration projects, improved performance and cost reductions for hydrogen technologies, and partnership-driven hydrogen infrastructure projects. 

Japan, in comparison, spent about $288 million US in 2003 alone on fuel cell and hydrogen research. The Japanese government views fuel cells as contributing towards its Kyoto protocol targets and as a means to alleviate an over reliance on crude oil imports. 

What barriers does fuel cell implementation face in the US? Canada?

The greatest hurdle for any new technology, such as fuel cells, to overcome is acceptance that it can deliver real business benefits – both economic and other benefits. It takes time and successful adoption by leading-edge users to demonstrate product reliability. To accelerate market adoption Ballard is focusing on increasing the number of systems integration customers, establishing original equipment manufacturing distribution channels and broadening penetration in additional geographic markets. We are working hard to establish proof points now – such as market trials and first commercial installations – in order to help stimulate early adoption.

Is North America on the forefront of fuel cell technology implementation or are we falling behind other world markets?

In general, fuel cell markets tend to be global in nature. So, demand for fuel cell solutions may grow at different rates on different continents, but in the long-run we anticipate significant demand globally. Ballard is a leading provider of hydrogen fuel cell solutions and we are aware of a range of activities across North America and elsewhere. 

What products does Ballard manufacture?

Ballard designs, manufactures, sells and services hydrogen fuel cells for use in a range of applications. Our fuel cell products include –

  • Mark9 SSL, used primarily for materials handling;
  • Mark1020 ACS, used primarily for backup power;
  • Mark1030, used primarily for residential cogeneration; and
  • HD6, an integrated module based on our Mark 1100 fuel cell stack and used primarily in hybrid fuel cell buses.

We also manufacture carbon friction materials and carbon-fibre based gas diffusion layer material used in fuel cells. 

What commercial activity is Ballard currently undertaking?

Ballard’s efforts are focused particularly on key growth markets – materials handling, backup power & residential cogeneration – as well as on important supporting business segments (fuel cell bus programs and carbon fiber materials). Today, commercialization activities are progressing in these markets in North America, Europe and Asia. 

Looking 5 years down the road ... where will the average citizen be seeing/using fuel cell technology in his or her day to day life?

The use of fuel cell products by systems integrators and manufactures is growing in the residential co-generation, backup power, and materials handling market. This will result in more residential areas having the ability to become energy efficient and retailers or other companies may be moving goods about in a warehouse or distribution centre by means of a fuel cell-powered forklift truck. The ultimate consumer may not be aware of what is happening in the background initially but other consumer fuel cell products, made by other companies than Ballard, like micro fuel cells- used to re-charge and power devices such as cellular phones and laptops are currently being tested and will be available for consumers in the near future. 

Further into the future ... what roll will fuel cells take in our inevitable move toward alternative energy solutions?

In the longer term, it is entirely possible that new applications using fuel cell technology will emerge that are much closer to consumers. As an example, in the foreseeable future, consumers could experience fuel cell-powered auxiliary power units used in recreational vehicles and leisure power boats. It is likely that fuel cells will co-exist with a range of low (or zero) emission technologies that make consumers’ lives both comfortable as well as more environmentally sensitive.

The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag

Comments (0)

This post does not have any comments. Be the first to leave a comment below.

Post A Comment

You must be logged in before you can post a comment. Login now.

Featured Product

Rolls Battery - Maintenance-Free AGM & GEL Batteries

Rolls Battery - Maintenance-Free AGM & GEL Batteries

With a full range of capacity options (85AH-3300AH) and voltage configurations to choose from, Rolls Battery maintenance-free 2V, 6V & 12V AGM and broad range of 2V GEL models offer a valve regulated lead acid (VRLA) battery option with the same dependable energy storage and heavy-duty construction customers have grown to expect from the Rolls brand for over sixty years. Installed in off-grid, grid-tied or backup float applications, these sealed batteries require minimal ongoing maintenance and provide a versatile energy storage solution for remote or confined installations. Rolls Battery AGM and GEL battery lines deliver superior cycle life and are backed by an industry-leading warranty.